The Power of Words

Stephen King was born on this day, September 21st in 1947.  Famous for his mind-bending thrillers, he is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Book Awards.  King’s writing is captivating for many reasons, but perhaps foremost is his ability to conspire with his readers to suspend reality and imagine a world where constraints are unraveled.

In his book On Writing, he speaks of the power of words…

Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe. Imagine if you like, Frankenstein’s monster on its slab. Here comes lightening, not from the sky but from a humble paragraph of English words. Maybe it’s the first really good paragraph you wrote, something so fragile and yet full of possibility that you are frightened. You feel as Victor Frankenstein must have when the dead conglomeration of sewn-together spare parts suddenly opened its watery yellow eyes. Oh my, it’s breathing, you realize. Maybe it’s even thinking. What do I do next?

Words indeed breathe, and their ability to shape, and ultimately to affect reality are an echo of the logos wherein all things exists.

D I G  D E E P E R


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Omar Khayyam was born in 1048 in present day Iran.  In the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Ernst Troeltsch points out the rise of Rationalism in the Muslim world at that time, and with perhaps the exception of Voltaire, no poet or philosopher was more cynical than Omar Khayyam, the high priest of free-thought and of pessimism. His masterpiece The Rubáiyát says

The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

There are volumes on Ecclesiastes in all the great commentaries, and treatments of it in the volumes on Introduction. See A. J. Arberry, ed., The Legacy of Persia (Oxford: Clarendon, 1953); R. N. Frye, The Golden Age of Persia (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975) and Edwin M. Yamauchi, Persia and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996).  A few of the many separate commentaries are those of Moses Stuart, Andover, 1864; H. Grätz, Leipzig, 1871; G. Wildeboer, Tübingen, 1898; E. H. Plumptre, Cambridge, 1881. Other works are those of J. F. Genung, Eccl, and Omar Khayyám, 1901, Words of Koheleth, 1904, and The Hebrew Lit. of Wisdom in the Light of Today, 1906; C. H. H. Wright, Book of Koheleth, 1883; S. Schiffer, Das Buch Coheleth nach Talmud und Midrasch, 1885; A. H. McNeile, Intro to Eccl, New York, 1904.

On the similarity to Omar Khayyam: J. F. Genung, Ecclesiastes and Omar Khayyam, Boston, 1901; A. Buchanan, Essence of Ecclesiastes in Metre of Omar Khayyam, London, 1904. On the history of interpretation: S. Schiffer, Das Buch Coheleth nach Talmud und Midrasch, Leipsic 1885; M. M. Kalisch, Path and Goal, London, 1880.

Finally, a good overview is found with Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: Embracing Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology and Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Biography from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1908–1914)

 

Published by

Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life